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The rise of driverless cars underpinned by data

Alister Lee | Dec. 14, 2015
Driverless cars are poised to be unleashed onto our roads and change the traditional car ownership model forever.

The driverless Volvo XC90
The driverless Volvo XC90

After working late to hand off your projects ahead of a long-awaited family holiday, you summon a car with your smartphone app, which normally arrives in two minutes. Since you’ve asked for long-range comfort, it will be at your gate in seven.

As the family piles in, you look forward to getting some sleep as the driverless car pilots itself to your holiday house on the coast.

Sound implausible? Think again. Driverless cars are poised to be unleashed onto our roads and change the traditional car ownership model forever. They will be safely piloted, and at lower cost than driving yourself. Pricing will be competitive and optimised around fleet usage.

Huge volumes of data collected on trips taken, passenger preferences, traffic volumes, and vehicle performance and efficiency will be captured and analysed to optimise utilisation and improve the quality of your experience.

So when can we expect to see driverless cars dominating the roads? Trends such as machine learning, big data and analytics are powering visionary development programs at traditional and non-traditional players in the car industry.

To cite just three examples, Google-developed cars are already navigating familiar roads autonomously, while Toyota’s stepping stone, ‘Highway Teammate’ technology - that enables a car to brake, accelerate, merge and overtake without driver intervention - will be on the road by 2020.

Then there’s Tesla’s auto pilot feature that uses data from a combination of cameras, radar, ultrasonic sensors to automatically steer, change lane and adjust speed in traffic.

So how is this data phenomenon making more cost effective cars available and driving these cars for us going to impact the industry? Analysts predict the impact of driverless cars and the decline of traditional car ownership will be rapid and far-reaching. PwC estimates the number of cars on the road in the United States will fall from 245 million to just 2.4 million.

Infoready’s analysis of fleet kilometres – using data from the ABS and vehicle intensity using taxis as a proxy for driverless cars – found that the availability of a driverless option will move the number of passenger cars from 175 per 100 households to around 60 per 100.

While there may initially be some barriers to driverless cars - such as concerns over the security of any networked systems and the fine-tuning of legal and regulatory frameworks -take up will reach a tipping point beyond which it quickly becomes the new normal.

Data and analytics are becoming increasingly intrinsic to all aspects of our daily lives and the driverless car is the latest example of a rapidly rising tide of disruptions underpinned by data.


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